Just one island over and things are very different! The religion is different, it has massive cities and thousands and thousands of mopeds (not a chance I'd drive here!) We were invited to Jember on Java Island by a friend Rudi who we had met on the cruise a few months ago. Excitedly back in November we had agreed to visit him in his native Indonesia and spend time with his family. Several months later we found ourselves reuniting. We were welcomed to open arms and treated as family for the few days we were there. Rudi and his family showed us the make up of Indonesian family that is full of joy and laughter (despite the language barrier!). We, as a family, enjoyed a day at the beach (killing a rooster on the way home/ oops!), had several Indonesian meals together and celebrated my birthday (21 again!!!). It was a pleasure to experience the daily life of the people of Jember which is full of fun, and always putting family first. We met several neighbours and relations of Rudi who all treated us like family and we definitely won't be short of a bed on our return!
We travelled onto the Gili Islands for a few days of relaxation. On the way we had fantastic food in a family run cafe in Padang Bai, where we soon became acquainted with the chef and her husband. We complimented the food, all shared experiences and he got us a great deal on the boat across to the Gilis! Result! We chilled out, swam, sunbathed and scuba dived (some of the best!!) on Gili Air for several days before heading to Gili T (the larger party island) for St. Patricks Day. The Irish bar there had the town all in green to celebrate our special day, I think though there was actually only 5 Irish people there! That didn't stop the party and we celebrated, while attempting Irish dancing of course! We returned to Gili Air to relax and recuperate after the partying.
Our last stop was the lovely beach town of Sanur along the coast. Although quieter, it was calm and cool. The night market offered us Indonesian food straight from the locals kitchens which was always delicious, and a very nice beach to chill during the day. Again the locals were as friendly and helpful as ever. The laughs, interaction and experience we had with the local people alone is enough to make me want to visit Indonesia again.